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from the religious to the secular authorities; but as the monarchy
grew more autocratic, the Jesuits increased in influence and were
able to prevent any educational changes adverse to the interests
of their own schools. The consequence was that in the Seventeenth
Century the education of the nobles and the middle classes was
as completely dominated by the Church as it had been at any
time during the Middle Ages. Practically all the schools were in
the hands of Teaching Congregations or Societies, whose members
had devoted themselves to the service of God and the Church,
and had taken on themselves the obligation of a common Rule.
Among these congregations, that of the Jesuits was by far the
strongest. In every part of the land they had flourishing colleges
and universities, the latter attended by such numbers of students
that even the university of Paris was seriotisly affected. In the
middle of the century they had 14,000 pupils under instruction
in the province of Paris alone ; by the end of the century,
their colleges, exclusive of universities, numbered 612. To
all intents and purposes they were the supreme power in French

Even under these conditions the spirit of freedom was not left
long without a witness. One of the first signs of the approach
of a wider view of life and education appeared in the philosophy
of Rene Descartes (1596-1650), who, though not an educator
himself, was yet a great liberalizing force in educational thought.
Descartes had been educated at the Jesuit College of La Fl&che,
but when he came to pass the pursuits of his youth in review in
his Discourse on the Method of rightly conducting the Reason and
seeking Truth in the Sciences (1637)a title significant of modernity
he found that his studies had left him without any certainty of
belief. To win for himself the assurance which the authoritative
teaching of his Jesuit masters had failed to give him, he broke
away from authority altogether in matters of science and philo-
sophy, and fell back " on the power of judging aright and of
distinguishing truth from error, properly called good sense or
reason,*' which is the equal gift of nature to all men. His Method
followed from this primary faith in reason: accept nothing as
true which does not approve itself to the mind with clearness
and distinctness, reduce every problem to its simplest elements,
proceed step by step from assured knowledge of what is simple
to assured knowledge of what is complex, cover all the facts in